Daffodil weather and mackerel skies

One of the more interesting aspects of writing fantasy or sci-fi, particularly when creating entire new worlds, is the question of idioms. We use idioms every day, words that when strung together and looked at on the face of them, don’t mean anything without the cultural context to inform them. Take daffodil weather, for instance. It’s a local term, one that has immediate meaning to me; a mild spring day, sunny after a period of cold, damp weather, the kind of day that seems to summon daffodils into bloom like magic. I don’t use the term mackerel skies nearly as often, but I know what it means, and why sailors of old would have understood it and cared enough about it to coin the term in the first place.

It doesn’t do to overload a piece of writing with ‘alien’ idioms, of course. But a little local flavor goes a long way into imparting an extra layer of believability to a made-up world. And just for my own curiosity’s sake, sometimes I want to know, even if it never actually comes up (or more likely, gets trimmed when I go back and edit things).

So I can’t help but wonder what a sky full of ladies’-fans looks like, or what kind of weather it portends. And I don’t just want to know what tasselberries taste like; I want to know what time of year they ripen, and whether they really do have an extra savor when silvered with milkfrost.

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